As Friday marked the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), a number of European leaders and heads of international organizations commemorated the anniversary and called for unity in the fight against the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventy-five years ago, at least 55 million people died during World War II (WWII) and around 6 million Jews fell victim to the Nazi Holocaust throughout Europe. Today, the world is hit by COVID-19, which has infected more than 3.8 million people with over 270,000 deaths globally, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally Friday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, massive celebrations and street parties planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII had to be canceled in some countries.

Britain, locked down by COVID-19 restrictions, celebrated on Friday the anniversary by a mixture of social distancing and virtual gatherings, while the enormous public events planned for central London were unable to go ahead.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II made an address to the nation from Windsor Castle Friday night, saying “Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish. Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps. But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described in his VE Day message how people fought with courage, ingenuity and endurance on the frontline.

“This country triumphed thanks to the heroism of countless ordinary people, and because of this, hundreds of millions of people now live in peace and freedom today. Today we must celebrate their achievement, and we remember their sacrifice.”

Referring to the virus outbreak, the prime minister said it demands the same spirit of national endeavour as shown during wartime.

“We can’t hold the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past, but all of us who were born since 1945 are acutely conscious that we owe everything we most value to the generation who won the Second World War,” Johnson said.

Poland marked the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII with a handful of modest ceremonies organized at a local scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poles fought on all fronts of WWII, Polish President Andrzej Duda said after a wreath-laying ceremony in Warsaw, adding that “We are not forgetting about the sacrifice of those who fought on the fronts of World War II, all Poles who died during World War II, who were killed and suffered during World War Two.”

According to Germany’s federal disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, COVID-19 cases in the country increased by 1,209 within one day to 167,300 on Friday, with the death toll from the disease increasing by 147 to 7,266. And the reproduction rate of COVID-19 in Germany picked up slightly from 0.65 to 0.71.

Faced with this situation, the originally planned state act commemorating the end of WWII and a related international meeting of young people were called off.

Instead, a wreath-laying ceremony was held at Berlin’s Neue Wache, Germany’s main memorial for the victims of war and tyranny, under strict hygiene rules and without an audience on site.

“Remembrance never ends. There can be no deliverance from our past,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the ceremony. “It is not professing responsibility that is shameful, it is denial that is shameful.”

“Today, 75 years later, we are forced to commemorate alone, but we are not alone,” stressed Steinmeier. “We live in a vigorous and well-established democracy, in a country that has been reunified for 30 years, at the heart of a peaceful and united Europe.”

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday remembered the millions of people who lost their lives in WWII and called on the international community to work together to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guterres asked the world to learn the lessons of 1945, “We must never forget the Holocaust and the other grave and horrendous crimes committed by the Nazis. The victory over fascism and tyranny in May 1945 marked the beginning of a new era.”

The UN chief noted that the world is still suffering the impact of conflict. Even during the current COVID-19 crisis, there are new efforts to divide people and spread hatred, he noted.

“As we mark this 75th anniversary, let’s remember the lessons of 1945 and work together to end the pandemic and build a future of peace, safety and dignity for all,” said Guterres. Enditem

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